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What are the penalties for breaking safety law?

Penalties for employers include a fine, or, in some cases, imprisonment or losing the right to be a company director. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) names and shames employers guilty of criminal offences.

In 2008, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force. This Act is supposed to make it easier to prosecute companies and other large organisations when serious failures in health and safety management have caused a death.

Sentencing guidance published in February 2010 said that fines for organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter should be measured in millions of pounds, and should generally not be below £500,000. However since the Act came into force, fines have not reached the multimillion pound levels anticipated. In 2013, a successful prosecutionfor corporate manslaughter made against Prince’s Sporting Club after an 11-year old girl died at the Club resulted in a fine of only £135,000.

A consultation carried out in early 2015 by the Sentencing Council is proposing a more consistent approach to sentencing on corporate manslaughter and has recommended that fines go up to £20 million depending on the organisation’s turnover. 

January 2015 marked only the tenth successful prosecution of a firm for corporate manslaughter following the death of a worker who had become trapped in an industrial oven.